The Fabulous Cover to this book. And literally, this is the only redeeming feature of this novel.
Looking for a campus setting (or a ‘college read’), I opted for The Rules of Attraction – a 1987 effort by the hardman of literature, Bret Easton Ellis. I was expecting zingy green fields, the essence of great learning, libraries wall to wall with tantalising books, and college dorm rooms straight out of the set of Dawson’s Creek. Humour me – I was looking to rediscover a tiny sliver of youth and the promise of undergraduate study via the novels four main protagonists.
Instead, however, I was presented with four (and few more peripherals) kind of loitering around their college experiences, pretty much laden with issues and dripping in the kind of psycho-babble that made Dawson’s Creek fairly unbearable at times, but at least I could laugh at the latter. This version delivered by the albeit expert hand of Easton Ellis, was more stomach churning and gut wrenching at the best of times. All told, this was a grim reading experience.
No one can deny that BEE is an author of a generation (although he does yell TWENTIETH CENTURY rather than anything millennial), but even with this ‘great player’ at the helm, the prose was fat, gunky, and whilst a more pro BEE person may describe the writing as visceral, I found it gratuitous and more often than not, odious.
The author could have redeemed himself by giving the characters a sense of the real. Of course most college students are in the midst of mixed identities, working their way through issues real and imagined; exploring themselves as well as the world around them. But these caricatures sit rather one dimensionally on the page and their angst is simply laborious rather than bringing us closer to them or offering any helpful insight to the liberal arts college crowd. If I had to sit through one more scene in ‘the canteen’, I would have been tempted to test out the inflight across-the-room capacity of this book. Is it an important book? In a word, No.
The RoA could have redeemed itself perhaps with entertaining scenes – but aside from one set piece in a New York hotel (which really only stands out for its jaw dropping obscenity than intelligent humour), the narrative plods along. I only kept reading out of obligation than a true sense of irresistible pace. Did it keep me guessing? No. Did it even keep me engaged? Not really. The flat portraiture is nothing to write home about and I am no more familiar with Camden College than I was about 250 pages ago. Yawn.
The RoA will have no legacy for me as a literary piece. I can even go as far to say I’m rather done with Bret himself and have no desire to read another of his books. The ONLY feature of this book that I have found myself mentioning out loud is the presence of another character from a different Easton Ellis novel making an appearance in this one. I won’t spoil anything, but it was a curious reading experience that I think has made me if not smile, than certainly pontificate on. This book owes me but for that tiny bit alone, perhaps it’s not so bad.
Oh Bret Bret Bret, for one so usually controversial, for me the Rules of Attraction has been nothing but pedestrian. Must try harder my friend, in every sense.
2/10 – the two points for being a completed published novel, and for that character appearance.